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University officials presented their annual “town-gown” report to the Cambridge City Planning Board last night, but stopped short of outlining any concrete plans for future development in Cambridge.
The complication in articulating Harvard’s future designs for Cambridge is that its Cambridge plans are tied up in its Allston plans, according to Kathy A. Spiegelman, chief University planner and director of the Allston Initiative
“Part of our difficulty in defining a 10-year plan is because in the next two years we will be defining the nature of our planning and development of the land in Allston,” Spiegelman said.
Spiegelman said that there is a lot more land in Allston than in Cambridge, but it is not yet suitable for building.
“The land options in Allston are by and large just not available right now,” she said. But Spiegelman hopes to pick a development team by early summer.
Spiegelman said that future development in Cambridge would expand Harvard Law School and graduate student housing, as well as add state-of-the-art science facilities to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS).
In the North Yard, Harvard will convert parking structures from above-ground to below-ground facilities, Spiegelman said.
Spiegelman said Harvard will also renovate the Faculty Club and Lippmann House, which serves the Nieman Fellows. Other construction includes the Center for Government and International Study as well as the Laboratory for Interface Sciences and Engineering building. Another planned building at 90 Mount Auburn St. will house the University Libraries System.
Jane H. Corlette, Harvard associate vice president for government, community and public affairs, spoke to the “very positive change in Harvard’s relationship with the city, which has seen growth in economic investment and in student community service.”
Corlette also presented the newest “brainchild of Larry Summers” to improve the Cambridge community—an academic enrichment program for low-income Boston and Cambridge students, complete with a stipend so that they can study over the summer instead of work.
Corlette also spoke of the recent growth in enrollment in both the Harvard Summer Academy and the Harvard Extension School.
Corlette reemphasized that Harvard is an “economic engine in the community,” spending $100 million on Cambridge businesses in 2002, and employing 8 percent of Cambridge residents.
In terms of housing plans, Spiegelman announced that the University is satisfied with the current 97 percent of undergraduates living on campus, and 12 percent of faculty living in Harvard-affiliated housing.
But it will work to raise the rate of graduate students in Harvard buildings from 37 to 50 percent. This will include two new projects to house Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health students.
Despite Spiegelman’s attention to environmental concerns in her presentation, Cambridge resident Robert LaTrémouille spoke up against what he said was the planned destruction of 300 trees on Memorial Drive, which he said threatened the wildlife and environment of the area.
“I think Harvard is very destructive, and I object,” LaTrémouille said.
In the brief public response to the “town-gown” presentation, Cambridge residents criticized Harvard for not providing residents with a long-term development plan, and said that they were concerned about the relationship between retail and office space in Harvard Square and beyond.
City Councillor Henrietta Davis urged the University to provide a clearer explanation of its development goals and plans, particularly in regard to traffic issues between Harvard’s properties in Cambridge and Boston.
The board will reconvene on March 16 to hear a more detailed report from University officials on the much contested developments in the North Yard, including the Law School property and the FAS science plans.
—Staff writer Claire Provost can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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